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Whether you are planning a cheese course for a dinner affair or you need ideas for creating an irresistible cheese plate for a party, the perfect cheese platter is just a few short steps away. All you need to do is decide on your extras, choose your bread, and of course, select cheese that will tempt even the pickiest turophile.

Dinner Party Cheese Platters

Cheese platters are wonderful alternatives to traditional dessert courses during a dinner party, or they can arrive just before the sweet stuff. Since the cheese is the stay, start by determining which ones you want to serve. Naturally, as the host, you can stack the board with your favorites. However, the general rule when looking for cheese platter ideas is to select one hard (or semi-hard) cheese, one soft, and something “funky.” Of course if you are opting for more than three cheeses, you have some additional options.

Looking for inspiration? Martha Stewart Living suggests a mild Manchego or a “dry, sharp variety, such as Pecorino Romano” for your harder options. Triple crème cheeses will always win you raves from cheese aficionados, but Brie is also a favorite. The more aromatic additions do depend on your palate or that of your guests, should you know in advance. Martha Stewart Living offers a “creamy Roquefort or pungent Stilton,” and, of course, a sample of funky Époisses de Bourgogne will add a bit of the unusual to your platter. If you include more than three cheeses, think about adding milder versions of the hard and soft options, or maybe bring a goat cheese into the mix.

Naturally, you cannot forget the cheese platter complements. Pieces of baguette or wedges of other freshly baked crusty bread will never steer you wrong. Crackers are also very popular, but you want to make sure that you don’t choose anything too flavor-forward, particularly when pairing it when pungent cheese. You want to avoid having the flavors clash or compete.

Looking for extras to round out your dinner cheese board? You won’t go wrong by adding something slightly sweet. Think about adding fruits like apples, grapes or dried figs or apricots to your presentation. Nuts may bring more salt to the mix, but that crunchy texture will go particularly well with the softer cheese. As always, be mindful of any guests with nut allergies before putting together the platter.

Festive Party Cheese Platters

Cheese platters are always a big hit for even the most casual of social gatherings. Here, you tend to have more leeway than when you are planning a cheese course as part of a dinner. Of course, the standard rules still apply – it’s still all about the cheese.

Because you are likely to be serving people with a wide variety of tastes, Martha Stewart Living suggests that you think about selecting fromage that covers “a variety in the type of milk, age, and texture, as well as in shape and color.” In addition to your favorite soft and hard options, consider adding a goat cheese, a crumbly blue cheese, and another triple crème into the party cheese platter mix. Because you have such a variety, you can afford to go bigger with the more pungent options. Take some risks when looking for additions to your traditional favorites. Looking for even more idea? Baked cheese always wows. Baked Brie is often fun, but a baked goat cheese, like Humboldt Fog, can really be a show-stopper.

Whether you are opting for fresh-baked French baguettes, choosing an olive bread or offering a range of crackers, you’ll want to be sure that the overall flavor complements, rather than drowns out the flavor of your cheese selections. Water crackers are tasty and mellow enough not to overpower your milder offerings.

It is not uncommon to see charcuterie added to party cheese platters. Proscuitto or serrano are lovely choices, as is speck. If you are going to have very soft, creamy cheeses, you’ll want something more substantial for a meat pairing. Likewise, salty options go well with creamy flavors. Think of the classic prosciutto and truffle cheese pairing when planning your own board.

Other cheese board extras could include sweet elements, as well as zesty accents. Chocolate or small honey dishes are not unheard of, while a small serving dish of intense balsamic vinegar (or a homemade balsamic glaze) could add a nice, tangy option for dipping. If you have the time, experiment before the party to find your favorites. If not, it will be a taste adventure for both you and your guests.

Just as you will with dinner party platters, party cheese platters can welcome salty, crunchy nut options, as well as olives or cut springtime vegetables. You can add the sweet slices of apples, grapes or dried fruits to your party board.

Serving Tips

Whether you are serving the cheese boards at a dinner gathering or as a side dish at a party, the cheese should be served at room temperature. If it is too cold, you’ll lose the flavor, and you don’t want that after all your hard work. The trick is, of course, the timing. When your setting is very warm, you’ll only need the cheese set out for a short time before serving – five or ten minutes even for hard cheeses. Otherwise, you should bring out the cheese platter about 45 minutes before serving.

Vegan Platters

Do you have vegans on your invite list? You can create a vegan cheese platter just for them, although you should be sure to mark it in some way, perhaps with a festive pop-up sign, so that there is no confusion. These days, there is no shortage of vegan cheese options, from soft-ripened to smoked Gouda-like possibilities. If you have a favorite vegan grocery, start there, but upscale chains like Whole Foods have nut-based artisanal cheese that will tempt even your non-vegan friends.

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